The more we thought about it, however, the more we liked the idea of a ramp for the mind. It is an apt metaphor for our approach. Our goals are aspirational. We want to improve our brains. We want to promote brain health and flourishing. These are not goals that are going to be achieved overnight. We cannot achieve these goals in a few quantum leaps forward. They will only be achieved through small, incremental steps that we take for the rest of our lives.
There is fascinating speculation about how the ancient Egyptians managed to build their massive pyramids without the benefit of modern mechanical technology. How did they manage to pile these massive stones on top of each other, layer upon layer, reaching ever higher towards the sky? The best guess is that they used ramps. The higher they need to get, the longer the ramp. In the same way, we believe that we can design better brains by building metaphorical ramps that alter our behavior on little step at a time. This approach requires no heroic leaps into the unknown. We are not asking you to transform yourselves into Olympic champions of the mind over night. Our approach asks you to take one “embarrassingly easy” step in the right direction. Then another. Then another.
The problem with the ramp theory for the construction of the Pyramids is that a single ramp that reached the highest point of the pyramids would have had to be so long that it would have been impractical. The actual solution may well have been a series of smaller ramps that worked their way up the inside of each wall of the pyramid. Rather than one endlessly long ramp, the pyramids may have been constructed by using a series of shorter, inter-connected ramps. In the same way, we believe that we can successfully design strategies to build better brains by using interconnected systems that move away from decline and suffering, and toward growth and flourishing, one simple step at a time.
Our path toward the Good Life, therefore, can be visualized as a long, leisurely climb up the MIND RAMP. On the lower end of the ramp is decline and suffering. At some point, as we leave suffering behind we get to a point on the ramp where we are languishing, not feeling bad, but also not feeling particularly good. As we pull ourselves out of the languishing stage we begin to experience more positive emotions, more meaning and purpose. We are finally on a path towards flourishing and wellbeing.
As indicated above, the full metaphor uses not one, but a series of interlocked ramps that reflect different aspects of the three domains of wellbeing, Health, Self and Others. We design better brains for ourselves by examining critical aspects of our own health, personal development and social interactions and make strategic decisions about changes that need to be made. In subsequent modules we will explore each of these areas in more detail.